Election Must Be a Catalyst for Long-Term Reform Focus

The Business Council of Australia has challenged the major political parties to focus on policies needed to secure Australia’s long-term economic future, after Prime Minister John Howard today announced a general election for 24 November.

“With the election underway now is the time for the parties to make detailed commitments to reform federal–state relations, infrastructure, business taxation and regulation, and education,” BCA President Michael Chaney said.

“Australians have a right to expect that such an important election, coming after 16 years of continuous economic growth, will be a catalyst for the parties to mark out a clear and comprehensive plan for reform for the term of the next government and beyond,” Mr Chaney said.

“Australia is at a crossroads – we can take the steps to lift our standard of living into the top five in the OECD by 2012 or we can squander the opportunity and risk slipping back down the ladder compared with our global competitors.

“We must not waste the fruits of our remarkable growth on short-term spending and election pork barrelling that doesn’t deliver on the fundamental objective of maintaining and building on our economic prosperity.

“The key policies required for future prosperity remain effective federal–state relations, nationally coordinated infrastructure renewal, streamlined business taxation and regulation, lifting workforce participation, and outcomes in education and innovation that better meet our future challenges.

“These are the policies that business believes will provide the foundation for continued economic growth and prosperity into the future,” he said.

In April the BCA identified reform standards essential to the next stage of Australia’s economic growth covering a range of policies.

In publishing the reform standards the BCA noted Australia has lifted its standard of living from 17th in the OECD to 7th between 1990 and 2005.

Mr Chaney said moving into the top five was achievable, but only if future-focused policies were adopted by the next government.

“Australians have grown accustomed to the opportunities and prosperity a strong economy provides such as jobs and wealth creation, access to goods and services, and new business and investment opportunities, and they want this to continue,” he said.

“Our current prosperity has been delivered because successive governments, through several elections, have thought beyond the short term and taken difficult reform decisions.

“The benefits of those decisions are clear, but what is not clear is how long our growth will continue without a commitment to a comprehensive reform agenda covering fundamental areas of our economy.

“The 2007 federal election will be remembered as the time our nation either took the necessary steps to move confidently into the future or let our hard-won gains slip away,” he said.